~ Wednesday, September 03, 2003
U.S. Stand Could Stall Korea Talks, Chinese Say
By JOSEPH KAHN
Sept 3, 2003
EIJING, Sept. 2 — As North Korea reversed itself and pledged to continue negotiating about its nuclear program, Chinese officials argued today that the bigger obstacle to a diplomatic solution is what it called the reluctance of the United States to bargain in earnest.
The official North Korean news agency, K.C.N.A., said today the North was still committed to negotiations about its nuclear program. It was the first confirmation that North Korea intends to take part in a new round of talks after it issued a stream of invective against the United States, called the just-completed talks in Beijing useless and said it was "no longer interested" in dialogue.
"The D.P.R.K.'s fixed will to peacefully settle the nuclear issue between the D.P.R.K. and the U.S. through dialogue remains unchanged," the news agency said in a dispatch released this afternoon, using the initials of the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
North Korea's position, if it remains the same, appears to confirm China's earlier statement that all parties that took part in the last round — the United States, North Korea, Japan, South Korea and Russia, as well as China — were ready to continue negotiations within two months.
The switch comes as China's top diplomats have grown increasingly concerned that the United States does not have a negotiating strategy beyond using multilateral talks to put pressure on North Korea, analysts who have spoken to Chinese officials about the issue said today.
In contrast, these analysts said, China is persuaded that North Korea is prepared to trade away its nuclear program for the right mix of security and economic incentives.
Wang Yi, China's vice foreign minister and the host of last week's talks, told reporters in Manila on Monday that he considered the United States the "main obstacle" to settling the nuclear issue peacefully. He did not elaborate, but in a regularly scheduled briefing today, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, backed up the point.
"How the U.S. is threatening the D.P.R.K. — this needs to be further discussed in the next round of talks," Mr. Kong said. He said new talks should focus on addressing what he called Washington's "negative policy" toward North Korea.
The statements are significant because China has played the principal role in bringing the parties together for talks. The administration would also need at least tacit backing from China, North Korea's largest aid donor and trading partner, to impose sanctions if the North began testing and deploying nuclear weapons.
People who have been briefed on China's position say that officials here believe that negotiations will ultimately collapse unless the Bush administration adopts a more nuanced bargaining strategy that provides a clear blueprint for dismantling North Korea's nuclear facilities while simultaneously addressing the country's security concerns.
"There is a widespread sense that the U.S. is the problem," said Chu Shulong, a foreign affairs expert at Qinghua University. "China wants everyone to be prepared to take steps at the same time, and doesn't understand why this is not reasonable."
At last week's negotiations, North Korea proposed a program in which it offered to dismantle its nuclear facilities and submit to inspections, but only after the United States signed a nonaggression treaty. The United States rejected that proposal, but offered little in return, maintaining that North Korea must completely and verifiably stop producing atomic weapons before discussions begin on any benefits it might receive for doing so.
American officials have said that they would not offer up-front benefits to North Korea because that would amount to succumbing to blackmail. North Korea acknowledged abrogating a 1994 pact with the United States and resumed nuclear weapons development last year, prompting the latest crisis.
Still, some outside experts argue that the Bush administration cannot maintain a no-bargaining position indefinitely if the negotiations are to progress beyond recitations of official positions.
"The first round just brought out the positions of both sides," said Susan Shirk, a former State Department official in the Clinton administration. "But if you want to solve the problem, there has to be a spirit of compromise on all sides."
~ Sunday, August 24, 2003
Chaos and Calm Are 2 Realities for U.S. in Iraq
By DEXTER FILKINS
August 24, 2003
DIWANIYA, Iraq, Aug. 19 — As the area around Baghdad endured a week of repeated violence, a happier scene unfolded in this city, a two-hour drive to the south.
American soldiers, without helmets or flak jackets, attended graduation ceremonies of the Diwaniya University Medical School. At ease with the Iraqi students and their parents, the American marines laughed, joked and posed in photographs. One by one, the students walked up to thank them, for Marine doctors had taught classes in surgery and gynecology and helped draw up the final exams.
"We like the Americans very much here," said Zainab Khaledy, 22, who received her medical degree last Sunday. "We feel better than under the old regime. We have problems, like security, but everything is getting better."
Such is the dual reality that is coming to define the American enterprise in Iraq, a country increasingly divided between those willing to put up with the American occupation and those determined to fight it. While the areas stretching west and north from Baghdad roil and burn, much of the rest of the country remains, most of the time, remarkably calm. [On Saturday, three British soldiers were killed in the south, in Basra.]
Rather than fight the Americans, most Iraqis appear to be readily accepting the benefits of a wide-ranging reconstruction.
The two faces of the occupation give American policy makers something to take solace in and something to worry over. Four months into the occupation, the rebellion against American forces, though fierce, is still largely limited to the Arab Sunni Muslim population and its foreign supporters and confined to a relatively limited geographic area.
In much of the rest of the country, in places like Diwaniya and Mosul and Amara, American and British soldiers are finding a population that has, at least for now, made a fragile and tentative peace with the occupation. Violence still breaks out but increasingly in broad regions it no longer seems the norm.
In the north, the Kurds, long the beneficiaries of American protection, count themselves as America's most enthusiastic supporters. In the south, the country's Shiite majority, while restive and suspicious, has largely chosen to go along for now.
"I don't accept the definition of a country in chaos," L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator, said this month. "Most of this country is at peace."
But the violence in and around the capital, and the growing incidence of terrorism, seen in the suicide-bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, pose a grave threat to the American rebuilding plan. Both undercut the establishment of democratic rule, and make the Americans less confident about handing over political power to the Iraqis.
With the capital under threat of attacks, the Iraqi Governing Council, the 25-member body ultimately expected to assume the reins of power, has increasingly conducted its business behind the marble walls of the presidential palace — away from danger, but away from the people.
The atmosphere in Diwaniya is far different. The 2,300 marines based here move freely about the city, tossing candy to the children, waving back to the parents. Not a single marine in Diwaniya has been lost to hostile fire since their arrival in April. There is not even a curfew.
"This is not Baghdad," said Lt. Col. Patrick Malay, who commands a force of about 950 marines in Diwaniya. "The Iraqis love us here."
By any standard, Diwaniya is fraught with problems, many left over from the war. Deprived of electricity and bottled oxygen, the ward for premature babies at the children's and maternity hospital here has all but collapsed, and doctors say that babies are dying at a higher rate than before. The shortage of electricity has led to the closing of the local textile mill and tire factory, which employed hundreds.
Recent outbreaks of rioting here have shown that Diwaniya residents are impatient with the pace of progress and suspicious of the occupiers. Two recent demonstrations, one involving a failure to pay Iraqi laborers working on an American project, and the other a protest against the local governor, turned momentarily violent. The demonstrations, each involving a couple of hundred people, were dispersed.
"Are they going to pay us or not?" asked Asad Joda, who said he had worked for two weeks without being paid. "Every day I come here, and they tell me, come back tomorrow, come back tomorrow."
But for a city emerging from three decades of neglect and dictatorship, Diwaniya in many ways seems remarkably stable. For instance, there is none of the virulent anti-American graffiti that marks walls and alleyways across Baghdad.
So far, most of the anger shown here has not been directed at Americans. With hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring into the area, the city and its surrounding areas are rapidly being restored and in some cases improved.
Since April, groups of marines have been fanning out across Qadisiya Province to oversee an array of projects intended to revive the local economy, its government and education systems, while putting Iraqis back to work.
In interviews, Marine commanders rattled off a list of local projects: 86 schools renovated; the police station, courthouse and jail reopened. Some 2,500 police officers, many of them graduates of a one-week human rights course, patrol the streets. Hundreds of local men earn $15 a week clearing weeds from local irrigation canals.
The marines are even able to go beyond immediate postwar needs and move toward strengthening the civil society. They are supervising construction of a women's shelter here, and they make regular deliveries to a local nursing home. They have even set up a Rotary Club.
"We are in lock-sync with the Iraqis," Colonel Malay said. "We want what they want."
It is difficult to judge the lasting impact of the reconstruction projects. The new coat of paint on the Dar Al Salam primary school makes the place look brand new. While the electricity flows erratically, some residents said they were getting more now than before the war.
Anecdotally, the efforts of the marines sometimes appear to be succeeding exactly as the policy makers in Washington intended.
"Every morning, I come to work with a passion to serve my country," said Aladeen Muhammad Abdul Hamza, who took a job in the new Iraqi police force. Mr. Hamza, a former officer in the Iraqi Army, is being paid $60 a month.
One day last week, Mr. Hamza scurried about the grounds outside the old textile mill, where hundreds of Iraqis employed in the weed-clearing had come to get paid. He did his best to keep order. "I know all about human rights," he said.
Even when things do not go especially well in Diwaniya, there seems to be a reservoir of good will. Much of it apparently stems from the historical predations suffered by the Shiite people at the hands of Saddam Hussein. Many in Diwaniya lost relatives and friends to agents of Mr. Hussein, and they have not forgotten.
Hassan Naji, a records clerk at the Diwaniya children's hospital, is critical of recent changes but only up to a point. Like many at the hospital, he is convinced that newborns are dying needlessly because the hospital lacks the electricity to run its sterile ward for premature babies. Before the war, an emergency line kept the electricity flowing.
Mr. Naji could produce few records on the recent infant deaths, attributing the inability to the new freedom brought by the Americans.
"Democracy has ruined this hospital," he said, sifting through uncollated notes and jottings. "In the past, people really worked at their jobs, if only because they were terrified of their supervisors. We kept the most accurate records. We had weekly meetings on the worst cases.
"Now, with all this freedom, no one cares anymore," he said. "We don't keep records anymore."
For all of that, Mr. Naji said, he would not pine for the days of Saddam Hussein. "Never," he said. "The Americans did a great thing when they got rid of that tyrant. Things could even get worse here and I would still feel that way."
"Believe me," Mr. Naji added, "most of the people in Diwaniya would feel that way."
The Americans could only wish that their welcome in Diwaniya was reproduced in towns like Tikrit, Ramadi and Falluja, part of the central and western core of Iraq, an area from which Mr. Hussein drew his ruling class. The destruction of his government brought an abrupt end to the privileges many enjoyed.
When American troops arrived in Ramadi in April, Sheik Fauzi Ftekhan Aburisha was the man they had to work with. Chosen by Ramadi's tribal leaders as their representative, Sheik Fauzi struck a deal that allowed American forces to enter the city. He assured other tribal leaders that the Americans would leave them alone. He assured the Americans that they would not be attacked.
"I really put myself out for the Americans," he said in an interview. "I guaranteed them — gave them my word — no one would take up arms against them."
That did not last. American soldiers were killed, and Americans began hunting some of the people to whom the sheik had promised safety.
These days, he said, many of the town's residents are so enraged that they have sworn to battle the Americans forever. The sheik, who counts himself a supporter of the Americans, is caught in the middle.
Whatever restraint the people had, they have lost, he said. "They will keep fighting."
~ Friday, August 15, 2003
NY Times - Heat Wave In Europe
August 15, 2003
Heat Is Easing in Europe, but Not for Leaders in France
By JOHN TAGLIABUE
ARIS, Aug. 14 — While Europe's record heat wave has begun to moderate, the recriminations for what is only now being recognized as an epidemic of heat-related death are just beginning.
The withering heat of the last several weeks is being blamed for hundreds of deaths across Europe, and perhaps 3,000 deaths in France alone, according to Jean-François Mattei, the minister of health in France, where the bodies have been piling up quickly in the 100 degree-plus temperatures.
"We can now qualify what has occurred as a true epidemic, with all that this entails regarding the number of victims," Mr. Mattei told the French radio today.
So many bodies were delivered in recent weeks to the Paris morgue that refrigerated tents had to be erected outside the city to accommodate them all. While temperatures have fallen into the 80's the last two days and were expected to continue to moderate, thermometers hovered near 100 degrees from mid-July in France, peaking at about 105 in some places, with high humidity. Health experts said the stress of such heat, coupled with a general lack of air conditioning and insufficient public preparedness, was to blame for the high death toll.
But the heat wave continued elsewhere, with temperatures Wednesday of 98 in Prague, 100 in Vienna and 105 in parts of northern Italy.
In the early days of this summer's heat wave, officials played down its significance, and most of the French government left for the annual monthlong August vacation. But as the death toll grew, the finger-pointing began.
"The figures are becoming catastrophic," said Dr. Patrick Pelloux, the president of the association of emergency room physicians. Addressing a news conference in Paris, he said that `'we cannot yet measure the phenomenon," and called on the government to apply throughout France emergency measures that were put in place in Paris on Wednesday providing for extra hospital beds and staffing and for temporary morgues.
Hospitals, morgues and funeral directors have reported increased deaths. In France, General Funeral Services, which handles roughly one-fourth the country's burials, said it handled about 3,230 deaths in the week to Aug. 12, or 37 percent more than the 2,300 during an average week in the year. The Health Ministry said it had based its estimates of 3,000 deaths on that number plus mortality figures supplied by 23 hospitals in the Paris region during the three weeks to Aug. 12.
While most of the victims have been elderly, the deaths in Germany included a 52-year old postal worker in Mannheim, in the southwest, who died after collapsing at work. In northern Italy, at least 16 deaths were reported in Milan this week, while in Turin 30 victims were reported Tuesday and a further 16 on Wednesday. The authorities said the victims were all elderly.
In Spain, a 49-year-old woman died today at Cáceres in the southern province of Estremadura, health officials said. They said the heat toll so far for Spain was about 40.
One factor common to the victims was a lack of air conditioning, which is less common in Europe than in the United States. But the problem was aggravated by the practice, at least in France, Italy and Spain, of shutting down parts of hospitals while doctors and staff take August vacations. The director of the big Saint-Louis Hospital, in Paris's 10th Arrondissement, Jean-Patrick Lajonchère, told the daily Le Monde that 35 percent of the hospital's capacity had been closed because of the summer break.
The city's medical system appeared overwhelmed. The Lariboisière Hospital, one of Paris's largest, reported about 220 admissions a day through the week. As part of an emergency plan, the government on Wednesday began calling back hospital workers and government employees.
This being France, the heat also sparked a political emergency. As recently as Tuesday, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was rejecting criticism of his handling of the heat-related deaths as "partisan polemics." But today he cut short his vacation to convene cabinet ministers who approved, among other measures, extending the Paris emergency plan in place to the entire country and opening military hospitals to those, particularly the elderly, suffering from the heat.
The government also commissioned the Institute for Health Surveillance, a public health agency in Paris, to canvass hospitals and other public health facilities to determine why so many of the French perished in the invasion of heat and humidity.
But the opposition political parties assailed Mr. Raffarin for doing too little too late. The Communist Party linked the crisis with government efforts to rein in health spending. The tiny Greens Party called for Mr. Raffarin's resignation.
Mr. Raffarin refused, telling reporters: "I will not resign," adding: "This is not the time for arguing. I feel that I have done all that was necessary at the right time."
~ Thursday, July 24, 2003
HEADLINE: Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson discusses the content of the State
of the Union and alleges White House repercussions against him for speaking
ANCHORS: KATIE COURIC
KATIE COURIC, co-host:
With us now from Washington is former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Mr. Ambassador, good morning to you.
Mr. JOSEPH WILSON (Former Acting United States Ambassador To Iraq): Hi,
Katie. How are you this morning?
COURIC: I'm fine, thank you. I know that you were one of the first to warn
the CIA that Iraq was not trying to buy uranium from Niger after the
agents--agency sent you there to investigate the situation in--in, I
believe, February of 2002. Now you say after you recently went public that
you were the administration's secret envoy, but the White House is trying to
discredit and intimidate you. Why would you say that and what specifically
do you think the White House is doing?
Mr. WILSON: Well, first of all, I was the discreet envoy as opposed to a
secret envoy. I'm not a secret agent. And, secondly, I went out there at the
request of the--of the government to look into the allegations that Iraq
might have been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Niger.
I looked into those thoroughly. I had a--a longstanding knowledge of the
uranium business, as well as a number of very senior level contacts in the
former Niger government which would have been in power at the time that the
supposed memorandum of agreement was done. I came back, I reported those
findings, and I went back to my--my normal life. When--first, the State
Department spokesman, in response to the IAEI***(as spoken)***assertion that
these documents were forged, said we were fooled, I felt it important to
make the point that, in fact, the US government had information long before
the IAEA statement to the effect that it was highly unlikely that Niger
could have been selling uranium to Iraq.
And then subsequently when there was another statement made by the--by the
national security adviser that perhaps somebody in the bowels of the agency
knew about it but not at her level, I felt it was important to ensure
that--that everybody understand that this was a--senior levels of the
government that had asked me to--that had asked for the information that had
led to my going out there.
COURIC: So how--let me get back to--to my original question, if I could, how
do you think now the White House is trying to discredit and intimidate you?
Mr. WILSON: Sure. Well, during--during the last couple of weeks, there have
been a number of articles written attacking me. The most amusing ones
basically suggesting that I told the truth because I'm a--a Democrat. This
was not a partisan activity, but if you want to lay it out as Democratic
truth-tellers and what the Republicans equal. But the most serious
allegation was in a--in a--an article by Bob Novak, a Washington columnist
for the Chicago Sun Times in which he asserted that my wife, who he named by
her maiden name, was a CIA operative. And he quoted two senior
administration sources. I spoke to him about it afterwards because he had
asked me for a confirmation. He had told me when he asked for the
confirmation, they were CIA sources. I called him afterwards and said, 'You
told me they were CIA sources, now you're saying they were senior
administration sources.' He said, 'I misspoke the first time,' which means,
as I well understood, that the CIA would never do something like that. And
so that basically means that somebody at the political level of the
COURIC: And you think this happened after you went public saying you were,
in fact, the discreet envoy, as you say, who ascertained that Iraq was not,
in fact, buying uranium from Niger?
Mr. WILSON: Oh, absolutely. The article appeared a week after my--my New
York Times op-ed.
COURIC: Which was July 6th?
Mr. WILSON: Which was July 6th. I've since learned from a--a couple of
different reporters that the White House has been--White House sources have
been telling the story as 'Wilson and his wife,' which is absolutely not the
case. It's neither about Wilson nor is it about his wife. It's about the 16
words that somebody managed to insert in the State of the Union address that
the president--that the president spoke to the United States, to the US
Congress and to the world.
COURIC: How damaging would this be to your wife's work?
Mr. WILSON: Well, you know, what was left out of my interview with Andrea
Mitchell was--was my comment that I would not answer any specific questions
about my wife. But hypothetically speaking, as others have reported,
including TODAY, it would be--it would be damaging not just to her career,
since she's been married to me, but since they mentioned her by her maiden
name, to her entire career. So it would be her entire network that she may
have established, any operations, any programs or projects she was working
on. It's a--it's a breach of national security. My understanding is it may,
in fact, be a violation of American law.
COURIC: Well, what would the White House--what motivation would the White
House have in divulging your wife's name?
Mr. WILSON: Well, it does--it does nothing to intimidate me since my story
is already out there. A day after I--I--I wrote my op-ed, the White House
acknowledged that the 16 words should never have been in the State of the
Union address. A week after my article appeared, the president's--the vice
president's chief of staff acknowledged to Time magazine that the vice
president had, in fact, expressed an interest to this subject matter. So
it's not to intimidate me. I--I--what I'm most worried about and most
concerned about is that it is probably intended to intimidate others and
keep them from stepping forward, less...
COURIC: Why did you--I'm sorry to interrupt.
Mr. WILSON: Mm-hmm.
COURIC: But why did you wait so long to come forward? If the president
included this sentence in his State of the Union address in January and used
it as a rationale for the invasion into Iraq, why did you wait to go public
until July 6th?
Mr. WILSON: Well, Katie, remember that the president's statement and the
British white paper referred only to Africa, generically. There are three
other countries in Africa that actually produce and export uranium, South
Africa and Namibia/Gabon. So long as they were talking only about Africa, my
curiosity was aroused, but there was no particular reason for me to think
they were talking about Niger. It was only after the State Department
spokesman make it very clear that, in fact, they were talking about Niger,
that was the country they were referring to from Africa, that I felt that it
was important to--to clear the record.
COURIC: You were anti-war, you were for--you supported the containment of
Saddam Hussein. So how can you convince people--and, reportedly, you are
close to Democrats. Is this politically motivated any--in any way, shape or
Mr. WILSON: Well, let me--let me say, Katie, that I went out to--to Niger
six months before I ever wrote any article on the particular subject.
Secondly, all my articles made the case that, in fact, disarmament was a
legitimate national security and indeed international security objective and
that in order to effect disarmament, you had to have the credible threat of
force. And in order to--for that credible threat--for that force to be
credible, you had to be prepared to use it. What I was against was the
high-risk global war option of invasion, conquest and subsequently
occupation. And the reason that I was against that was because I never
believed it was going to be a cake walk. I never believed, based on my
experience of two and half years living in Iraq...
Mr. WILSON: ...I never believed that the Iraqis were going to be waving
flags as we marched into Baghdad. I always feared that the occupation would
be the most difficult part of this. And I always thought that we needed to
take a good hard look at what objectives we were trying to achieve in
engaging in this activity.
COURIC: We're almost out of time. In a few seconds, what would you like to
happen if, in fact, it is found to be true that senior officials at the
White House did disseminate this information about your wife and her job?
Mr. WILSON: Well, I fully expect the appropriate authorities will look into
it, as well they should, if, in fact, it is a--it's a violation of US law. I
have every confidence in--in the institutions of our government. I've never
been prouder to be an American than during these days when--when speaking
truth to power has--has been an important thing to do. So I have every
confidence that this will all be looked into and--and--and decided
COURIC: Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Ambachader--Ambassador Wilson, thanks very
much for your time this morning.
Mr. WILSON: Thanks, Katie.
~ Monday, July 14, 2003
What the U.S. envoy who went to Niger didn't find
Joseph C. Wilson IV IHT
Tuesday, July 8, 2003
WASHINGTON Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?
Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, I was a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990, as charge d'affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam. (I was also a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait.) After Iraq, I was President George H.W. Bush's ambassador to Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe; under President Bill Clinton, I helped direct Africa policy for the National Security Council.
Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That's me.
In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the CIA that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake - a form of lightly processed ore - by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990s. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story.
After consulting with the State Department (and through it with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, the U.S. ambassador to Niger), I agreed to make the trip. The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the CIA paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the U.S. government.
In late February 2002, I arrived in Niger's capital, Niamey, where I had been a diplomat in the mid-1970's and visited as a National Security Council official in the late-1990's.
The next morning, I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. The embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger's uranium business, so I was not surprised when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq, and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington. Nevertheless, she and I agreed that my time would be best spent interviewing people who had been in government when the deal supposedly took place, which was before her arrival. I spent the next eight days meeting current and former government officials and people associated with the country's uranium business.
It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.
Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger's uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired. (As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors - they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government - and were probably forged. And then there's the fact that Niger formally denied the charges.) In early March, I arrived in Washington and promptly provided a detailed briefing to the CIA. I later shared my conclusions with the State Department African Affairs Bureau. There was nothing secret in my report.
Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in U.S. government archives confirming my mission. They should include the ambassador's report, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a CIA report summing up my trip, and an answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally).
I thought the Niger matter was settled and went back to my life. I did take part in the Iraq debate, arguing that a strict containment regime backed by the threat of force was preferable to an invasion. In September 2002, however, Niger re-emerged. The British government published a "white paper" asserting that Saddam and his unconventional arms posed an immediate danger. As evidence, the report cited Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium from an African country.
Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.
The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them. He replied that perhaps the president was speaking about one of the other three African countries that produce uranium: Gabon, South Africa or Namibia. At the time, I accepted the explanation. I didn't know that in December, a month before the president's address, the State Department had published a fact sheet that mentioned the Niger case.
Those are the facts surrounding my efforts. The vice president's office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.
The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses. (It's worth remembering that in his March "Meet the Press" appearance, Cheney said that Saddam was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons.") At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president's behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted. I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program - all of which were in violation of U.N. resolutions. Having encountered Saddam and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.
But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.
The writer, U.S. ambassador to Gabon from 1992 to 1995, is an international business consultant.
July 14, 2003
Democrats Attack Credibility of Bush
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
ASHINGTON, July 13 — Democratic presidential candidates offered a near-unified assault today on President Bush's credibility in his handling of the Iraq war, signaling a shift in the political winds by aggressively invoking arguments most had shunned since the fall of Baghdad.
In interviews, town hall meetings and television appearances, several Democratic presidential candidates, who had been sharply divided over whether to go war, declared that President Bush's credibility had been harmed because of his use of unsubstantiated evidence in supporting the looming invasion of Iraq in his State of the Union address in January.
They also criticized the administration for what has happened in postwar Iraq, especially the continued deaths of American military personnel, which many attributed to Mr. Bush's failure to enlist the help of the United Nations in conducting the war. They questioned the failure to uncover the nuclear, chemical or biological weapons Mr. Bush had cited in pressing for war.
"The most important attribute that any president has is his credibility — his credibility with the American people, with its allies and with the world," Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who voted for the war resolution last fall, said in a telephone interview today. "When the president's own statements are called into question, it's a very serious matter."
Mr. Edwards added, "It's important that we not lose sight of the bigger picture, which is the enormous failure that is looming in Iraq right now."
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who also supported Mr. Bush last fall, cited the intelligence failures in an interview today as he challenged Mr. Bush's ability to protect the nation from terrorism.
"Americans have a right to ask a question, `Are we safer today than we were three years ago?' " he said. And, criticizing Mr. Bush's failure to enlist international support before starting the war, he said: "It's obvious now with the lack of international support in Iraq that our troops are at risk because we don't have the kind of plan that would have come with adequate diplomacy."
The shift in the debate from the Democratic side reflected a sudden confluence of events: the administration's admission of error regarding the State of the Union speech, the continuing carnage in Iraq and the failure of the United States to find the weapons that it used as a justification for invading Iraq. Until now, most of the Democrats had been reluctant to criticize a war that had appeared successful and, polls suggested, was largely supported by the American public.
"It's the first time we've seen them sweat," Jennifer Palmieri, the spokeswoman for Mr. Edwards, said of the White House. "It's the first time anything has ever stuck."
There were signs today that the White House had put been on the defensive by the wave of criticism of the State of the Union speech and the deteriorating events in Iraq. It dispatched top administration officials to the television talk shows to explain what had happened with the speech and assure the American public that events in Iraq were under control.
While it remained too early to measure whether this has genuinely changed the political landscape more than a year before the presidential election, it clearly has altered the dynamics in the Democratic primary. The recent problems in Iraq have offered Democrats who supported the war a way to criticize Mr. Bush's war policy without appearing to be admitting any past error.
Among them are Mr. Kerry, Mr. Edwards, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, all of whom have been increasingly critical of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy.
And the changing sentiments about the war have provided a new affirmation for the position taken by Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor whose opposition to the war has helped power him into the front tier of the Democratic competition. Dr. Dean said today that he foresaw the shortfalls of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy from his perch in the Vermont Statehouse last fall — and mockingly questioned why his opponents in Congress had failed to do so.
"I think they bear some responsibility here," Dr. Dean said. "If I as governor of Vermont can figure out the case is not there to invade Iraq, how can three senators and a congressman who claim to have authority in public affairs manage to give the president unilateral authority to attack Iraq?"
"It looks like my analysis was the correct one and theirs was the incorrect one," he continued. "It's going to be hard for them to make the case that I don't have the credentials on foreign policy after this."
Dr. Dean also called today for the resignations of George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, and Stephen J. Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, pointing to reports that both men knew in October that the disputed information — that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear information from Africa — was incorrect.
For all the flurry today, the situation could turn again if, for example, dangerous weapons are discovered, as Mr. Rumsfeld predicted in interviews on ABC's "This Week" and NBC's "Meet the Press."
Still, there was abundant evidence that there has been a broad change in the nature of the Democratic presidential campaign.
Mr. Kerry has scheduled a speech in New York City on Wednesday that will include what one aide described as a "blistering critique" of Mr. Bush's foreign policy, and Mr. Gephardt has scheduled a speech on the same subject for next week in San Francisco.
Last week, Mr. Lieberman wrote an Op-Ed column in The Washington Post asserting that the opportunity to build a stable Iraq "was now in jeopardy."
On "Meet the Press," Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who voted against the Iraq resolution and has long accused the administration of holding back critical intelligence data, suggested today that the White House had manipulated public opinion in making the case for war.
"There was a selective use of intelligence; that is, that information which was consistent with the administration's policy was given a front-row seat," Mr. Graham said. "Those questions that were not supported were either put in the closet or were certainly in the back rows."
At a town hall meeting today in Dubuque, Iowa, Mr. Gephardt repeatedly attacked Mr. Bush, even as he struggled at times to contend with catcalls from audience members critical of the central role he played as minority leader by supporting Mr. Bush's Iraq policy last fall.
"We had a president from Missouri named Harry Truman, and he had a sign on his desk that said, `The buck stops here,' " said Mr. Gephardt in the meeting, which was televised on C-Span. "I think the president has to get that sign back on the desk."
~ Wednesday, July 02, 2003